Blog Post: 1992 Interview with Richard Paul in Think Magazine (Part 4) - Final Segment

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Feb 22, 2022 • 1y ago
1992 Interview with Richard Paul in Think Magazine (Part 4) - Final Segment

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Missed Part 3? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"]"},{"insert":"\n\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Question: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"National standards will result in national accountability. What is your vision for the future?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Paul: "},{"insert":"Most of the national assessment we have done thus far is based on lower-order learning and thinking. It has focused on what might be called surface knowledge. It has rewarded the kind of thinking that lends itself to multiple choice machine-graded assessment. We now recognize that the assessment of the future must focus on higher—not lower—order thinking, that it must assess more reasoning than recall, that it must assess authentic performances, students engaged in bona fide intellectual work.\n \nOur problem is in designing and implementing such assessment. In November of this last year, Gerald Nosich and I developed and presented, at the request of the U.S. Department of Education, a model for the national assessment of higher order thinking. At a follow-up meeting of critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and testing scholars and practitioners, it was almost unanimously agreed that it is possible to assess higher-order thinking on a national scale. It was clear from the commitments of the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce that such an assessment is in the cards. [See figure 1, “Today's and Tomorrow’s Schools”.]\n \nThe fact is we must have standards and assessment strategies for higher order thinking for a number of reasons. First, assessment and accountability are here to stay. The public will not accept less. Second, what is not assessed is not, on the whole, taught. Third, what is mis-assessed is mistaught. Fourth, higher-order thinking, critical thinking abilities, are increasingly crucial to success in every domain of personal and professional life. Fifth, critical thinking research is making the cultivation and assessment of higher-order thinking do-able.\n \nThe road will not be easy, but if we take the knowledge, understanding, and insights we have gained about critical thinking over the last twelve years, there is much that we could do in assessment that we haven’t yet done at the level of the individual classroom teacher, at the level of the school system, at the level of the state, and at the national level. Of course we want to do this in such a way as not to commit the “Harvard Fallacy”, the mistaken notion that because graduates from Harvard are very successful, that the teaching at Harvard necessarily had something to do with it. It may be that the best prepared and well connected students coming out of high school are going to end up as the best who graduate from college, no matter what college they attend. We need to focus our assessment, in other words, on how much value has been added by an institution. We need to know where students stood at the beginning, to assess the instruction they received on their way from the beginning to the end. We need pre- and post-testing and assessment in order to see which schools, which institutions, which districts are really adding value, and significant value, to the quality of thinking and learning of their students.\n \nFinally, we have to realize that we already have instruments available for assessing what might be called the fine-textured micro-skills of critical thinking. We already know how to design prompts that test students’ ability to: identify a plausible statement of a writer's purpose; distinguish clearly between purposes, inferences, assumptions, and consequences; discuss reasonably the merits of different versions of a problem or question; decide the most reasonable statement of an author's point of view; recognize bias, narrowness, and contradictions in the point of view of an excerpt; distinguish evidence from conclusions based on that evidence; give evidence to back up their positions in an essay; recognize conclusions that go beyond the evidence; distinguish central from peripheral concepts; identify crucial implications of a passage; evaluate an author's inferences; draw reasonable inferences from positions stated; and so on.\n \nWith respect to intellectual standards, we are quite able to design prompts that require students to: recognize clarity in contrast to unclarity; distinguish accurate from inaccurate accounts; decide when a statement is relevant or irrelevant to a given point; identify inconsistent positions as well as consistent ones; discriminate deep, complete, and significant accounts from those that are superficial, fragmentary, and trivial; evaluate responses with respect to their fairness; distinguish well-evidenced accounts from those unsupported by reasons and evidence; tell good reasons from bad.\n \nWith respect to large scale essay assessment we know enough now about random sampling to be able to require extended reasoning and writing without having to pay for the individual assessment of millions of essays.\n \nWhat remains is to put what we know into action: at the school and district level to facilitate long-term teacher development around higher-order thinking, at the state and national level to provide for long-term assessment of district, state, and national performance. The project will take generations and perhaps in some sense will never end. After all, when will we have developed our thinking far enough, when will we have enough intellectual integrity, enough intellectual courage, enough intellectual per severance, enough intellectual skill and ability, enough fairmindedness, enough reasonability? One thing is painfully clear. We already have more than enough rote memorization and uninspired didactic teaching, more than enough passivity and indifference, cynicism and defeatism, complacency and ineptness. The ball is in our court. Let’s take up the challenge together and make, with our students, a new and better world.\n"}]}

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